McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The Department of Homeland Security has agreed to begin fixing the breaches in the levees in Hidalgo County that were caused by border wall construction. The news came after much pressure from South Texas leaders and media attention.
Homeland Security posted on its website a news release on Friday afternoon saying “DHS will start work to quickly repair the flood barrier system to protect border communities.”
The announcement came after Border Report on Friday morning first reported that Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez had decided to mobilize county work crews to begin repairing the four truck-sized levee breaches with county resources, despite not having federal authority.
The truck-sized gaps were made by construction crews hired by the Trump administration to build 450 miles of border wall along the Southwest border with Mexico. When President Joe Biden took office he implemented a pause in all border wall construction, but the gaps remained.
Cortez told Border Report that if not repaired, the entire region south of the east-to-west expressway could flood in an extreme weather event, and hurricane season begins on June 1.
Cortez said he was using his authority as the count’s emergency management director.
“My duty is to protect the safety of the residents of Hidalgo County and, currently, that entails getting these levee breaches repaired,” Cortez said Friday.
That decision was met with praise by two local South Texas congressmen and at least one mayor, who backed Cortez, saying the safety of residents in the Rio Grande Valley is at stake as long as these breaches remain.
“Happy we we able to get the message of urgency to the administration,” U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez told Border Report. “Levees are not a political or ideological issue. They are essential to the areas safety. So we are very happy to see this.”
Even the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission, the agency that oversees the levees, has expressed concern. But that agency said it was unable to conduct fixes unless a go-ahead was given by DHS.
Friday afternoon, DHS admitted that border wall construction “blew large holes” into the earthen levee that protects this delta region from the mighty and winding Rio Grande, which is so ferocious and unpredictable and prone to flooding that Mexicans refer to the international river in South Texas as the Rio Bravo.
DHS officials said in the news release the agency will:
- Repair the Rio Grande Valley’s Flood Barrier System: Construction under the prior administration blew large holes into the Rio Grande Valley’s flood barrier system to make way for a border wall. The flood barrier system had long provided low-lying regions of Hidalgo County, Texas, protection from catastrophic flooding, and these breaches have threatened local communities. DHS will start work to quickly repair the flood barrier system to protect border communities. This work will not involve expanding the border barrier.
- DHS will soon complete a plan that identifies additional measures to address the damage resulting from the prior Administration’s border wall construction.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from South Texas who is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, told Border Report he has asked Congress for $10 million to repair the levees.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.